Steam cleaner buying guide

How to keep your home dirt-free, sanitised and hygienic by adding a steam cleaner to your cleaning routine.

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Quick facts about steam cleaners

  • Steam cleaners sanitise, clean and get rid of dust mites and allergens.
  • Various attachments can help you clean a range of surfaces and hard-to-reach places.
  • Prices typically range from $250 to $350 for quality steam cleaners.

What is a steam cleaner?

Steam cleaners have become more and more popular over the last few years due to their versatility and chemical-free cleaning ability. They produce a dry steam that lifts grease and dirt to keep surfaces clean, sanitised and germ-free, and they're better for both your family's health and the environment than using a regular mop and floor cleaning product.

You'll find that steam cleaners look similar to other cleaning products that you already use like a vacuum cleaner or mop, but the difference is that steam cleaners have a water tank that enables them to produce steam while you clean.

Types of steam cleaners

There are three main types of steam cleaners: cylinder steam cleaners, steam mops and handheld steam cleaners.

Cylinder steam cleaner

A cylinder steam cleaner looks similar to a cylinder vacuum cleaner with the main body being a water tank. They are able to break down and remove dirt and grease from your floors before cleaning and sanitising. They also get rid of dust mites and allergens, so are worth having in a household of asthmatics and allergy sufferers to keep health problems at bay.

The one downside of cylinder steam cleaners is that even though they store more water, they do take longer to heat up, which may be frustrating when you're in a hurry. However, you can expect to get about 45 minutes worth of steam from one tank, which should enable you to do a lot of cleaning around the home in one go.

Since there are a number of different attachments that you can buy, you can use your steam cleaner for cleaning things like your oven, windows and hard-to-reach places. One thing that you shouldn't use a steam cleaner on is your clothes, but you can buy special garment cleaners that take out all the wrinkles out of your clothes after you've washed them.

Steam mop

A steam mop is lighter than a cylinder steam cleaner and works the same way as a normal mop. It has a water tank on the handle, but as it only produces about 15 minutes of steam, this will need to be filled up more often.

Steam mops are suitable for use on laminate, tile or wood floors (depending on the variable steam control), and some come with an attachment that allows you to use them on low-pile carpets. You should look for models that can heat up in 15-20 seconds and that have a swivel head for easy manoeuvring.

Check out the best steam mops in Australia.

Handheld steam cleaner

For small cleaning tasks around the home like cleaning curtains or giving the bathroom tiles a quick once over, a handheld steam cleaner might be suitable. While you can store them easily and they don't take long to heat up, their small water tank means that you won't get a lot of steam out of one refill.

How to compare steam cleaners

With many brands and models to choose from, take some time to understand what you should be looking for when you compare steam cleaners. The first step is to decide between a cylinder steam cleaner, a steam mop and a handheld cleaner.

Next, think about the size of your home. While steam mops may be good for smaller spaces, a cylinder steam cleaner is more suitable for a large home.

Finally, consider the following factors:


Steam cleaners come in various models and sizes, with options ranging from $80 through to over $1,000. The average price of a steam cleaner for a normal sized home that you'll be using regularly sits at around $250-$350. If you don't think you'll use your steam cleaner that much or you only have a small area to clean, then you can opt for a cheaper product, but if you need a more powerful cleaner for a busy household, then you may want to consider one of the more expensive models.

Steam output and pressure levels

The more steam your cleaner outputs, the better clean you will get, so a good measure to look for is 100g per minute or more. Choosing a model that has variable steam output means that you can use it on different types of floor finishes. The pressure level is also important, and again, the higher this is the better performance you will see.

Water tank capacity

The greater your water tank capacity, the more steam and more cleaning time you will get. Cylinder steam cleaners have the largest tanks, but if you would prefer to have a steam mop or handheld cleaner, opt for the biggest tank size that you can find for less frequent refilling. Do remember though that smaller tanks are quicker to heat up, so you may need to compromise on water tank size if you don't like to wait.

Size and weight

While steam mops and handheld steam cleaners are lightweight and portable, some of the larger cylinder steam cleaners are heavier, especially with a full tank. If you are interested in one of these, check the specifications for the weight to ensure that you are able to comfortably lift and maneuver it around your home.

Attachments and accessories

Some steam cleaners have various attachments and accessories that can make cleaning your home that bit easier. You may find these included or you could have the option of buying them separately.

  • Cleaning pads.Usually made from microfiber, these clean your floors.
  • Carpet glider.This helps to make your carpet look like new again and removes trapped odours for a fresh smell. You can use a carpet glider after using a carpet stain remover to help with the last traces of a stain or fluff the carpet back up.< li>
  • Scrubbing brush.A brush can make removing stubborn stains much easier as it breaks up grease and dirt.
  • Nozzle.An angled jet nozzle helps to clean those hard to reach corners.
  • Squeegee.If you have a squeegee attachment you can also clean your windows, which saves you time and effort.
  • Fragrance discs.By putting a fragrance disk into the water tank of your steam cleaner, you can enjoy a fresh smell throughout your home after cleaning.
  • Scrubbing pad.You can use these pads to break down grease in your oven for easier cleaning.< li>

Can you use tap water?

Some steam cleaners state that you need to use distilled water to fill the water tank as salts and minerals found in tap water can leave a buildup over time or wear down the metal. However, if you want to use tap water for convenience, it's possible to find special filters instead of having to use distilled water. Check the specifications for the steam cleaner you are interested in to see what is required.

This guide to the best places to buy appliances has a list of retailers where you can shop for your new steam cleaner.

Three things to consider

  1. Even though the cleaning pads on steam mops are usually machine washable, you'll need to replace them as they get worn out. Check to see what the price of these are so you are prepared for the ongoing cost.
  2. It's worth checking that the water tank can be detached from the body of the cleaner, otherwise you'll probably find that filling and emptying it is tricky.
  3. When using your steam cleaner on your floor, make sure to vacuum first to remove as much dust and debris as you can for best results. Want to save time? Invest in a robot cleaner and let it do the hard work for you.

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